Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Event Press Briefing
Location Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañan Palace

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV4:  Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps and guests. Let’s now have Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE:  Good Monday morning. Let’s start with the good news.

The Department of Labor and Employment through its Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism has recorded a total of 53,958 resolved cases on labor disputes based on the report of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board. The 83,039 workers in the first 18 months of the Duterte administration, the resolved cases amounted to a total of P4.294 billion involving collective bargaining benefits and other monetary claim.

More good news – We thank the Japanese government for granting the Philippine Coast Guard an Enhanced Communication System. The turnover was held on 12 February 2018 at the Headquarters of the Coast Guard District Central Visayas in Mindanao. Under the Enhanced Communication System’s project, a satellite communication system was installed to connect the Headquarters of the PCG to its district offices and its vessels. In addition, the project also setup a vehicle traffic management system in Cebu’s Mactan Channel for safe navigation and detection of suspicious ships passing through. The project costs 1.2 billion Yen or 500 million pesos.

And good news, I just came from Panglao. The new Bohol-Panglao Airport, designed to be the country’s first eco-airport and green gateway to the world is on track for completion by June 2018 and will start commercial operations by August. The airport can accommodate even 747s. The P7.8 billion project will serve as a premier gateway to the province and island paradise of Panglao and is expected to accommodate 2 million passengers in its opening year alone – a huge jump from 800,000 passengers currently being accommodated by the Tagbilaran Airport.

Governor Edgar Chatto assured me – that unlike the case of Boracay – that the local government units of Bohol are always on guard in implementing environmental rules and regulations. And that what he specifically asked is for national agencies such as the EMB and the DENR to coordinate with the local government units so that they know what it is exactly that is expected of the LGUs to implement.

Okay… questions? Or maybe briefly on Mayon Volcano updates – Alert Level 4 remains as of February 26 at 8 A.M. This means that, the danger zone is extended to 8 kilometers radius from the summit vent ‘no. As of February 25, 6 P.M., 23,526 families or 90,148 persons in 61 barangays in Albay are affected by the eruption of Mt. Mayon ‘no.

As of 25 February, 6 P.M., 16,106 families or 61,886 persons are currently taking temporary shelters in 57 evacuation centers; while 1,467 families or 5,621 persons are staying outside evacuation centers. The government has so far provided assistance in the amount of almost 400 million ‘no to the affected families in Albay.

Questions…

RALPH VILLANUEVA/MANILA TIMES:  Sir, good morning po. Ralph from Manila Times. Sir, any comment po doon sa sinabi ni Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely po na may nakikita raw po silang evidence na magre-regroup po iyong terrorists ng Marawi to strike elsewhere po.

SEC. ROQUE:  I think that has been a shared view of our Armed Forces, which prompted in fact the decision to extend the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. So, we are of course monitoring the situation, we are able and willing to deal with any new threats. But I think, this latest statement of the Australian Ambassador only verifies what we already know – that they are regrouping and recruiting more people.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Good morning, sir. Sir, has the President said anything about the arrest of Joanna Demafelis’ employers, and will this—could this prompt him to consider lifting the ban to Kuwait?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, we certainly appreciate the arrest of two of Joanna’s employers. However in addition to the arrest, we would like to see them prosecuted and punished for the murder of Joanna.

As of now, the deployment ban stays because the latest statement on this made by the President was when he visited the wake of Joanna, and he said that not only must they be apprehended, they must be punished.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS.:  Sir you mentioned over the weekend, that the President ordered the NBI to summon the recruiters or recruitment agency. What are his directives in handling the recruiters?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, he wanted the NBI to question the recruiters actually. Because under our scheme, the local recruiters are actually—ultimately liable ‘no for what happens to the Filipino deployed by the agencies for overseas ‘no. So that’s what the President wants to find out ‘no.

Of course the fact that the NBI will summon, will entail the person coming into the premises of the NBI. But I was very careful with the language, I just use the term summon ‘no. But if they will not appear, then they will of course—they could be taken into custody for investigation. But let’s see if they will voluntarily appear.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER:  Sir, Senator Drilon warned of a plot to railroad charter change. He’s saying the barangay elections will be postponed and held in October para isabay na sa plebiscite. Sir for Malacañang, do you think there has been enough discussion of charter change and the proposal to shift to a federal government for there to be a plebiscite by the end of day?

SEC. ROQUE:  Number one, I find that comment from Senator Drilon strange, because only last Friday, I was on a one forum together with Senate President Pimentel, and he declared in an audience of about 4,000 members of the Liga ng Barangay of Leyte, that the barangay elections will push through.

While there is a pending bill in the House filed by Congressman Johnny Pimentel ‘no, to suspend anew the barangay elections; Senator Pimentel declared before the audience of 4,000 that there was no support in the Senate for another postponement of the barangay elections – that means, as far as Congress is concerned, barangay elections will push through.

So this will belie already the statement of Senator Drilon. I’m just surprised that it’s coming from a minority senator. Normally it’s a minority senator that will insist that elections will push through, but it was actually Senate President himself who informed the audience to prepare for barangay elections in May.

So since the first allegation of Senator Drilon was false, I’d rather not comment on the other allegations of Senator Drilon, obviously because they are very speculative.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER:   But sir, how does Malacañang see the current discussions on charter change and the proposal to a shift to federal government?

SEC. ROQUE:  The President just only announced and administered the oath to the members of the Constitutional Commission. That means, he would prefer that Congress await the outcome of the work product of the Constitutional Commission before it is even tackled in Congress. So again, on a second basis, I would say that Senator Drilon is off tangent because there will be a lot more discussions ahead of us for charter change. Meaning, it is not the President’s purpose to railroad it knowing how important it is, revising that no less than the fundamental law of the land, and the people will be given ample time and opportunity to debate and ponder on the proposed revisions, whatever they may be.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER:   So at the very least sir, you don’t see any plebiscite happening this year?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, I think the time table is they want it already. I think from the leadership of at least the Lower House, they have revised their time table. It might be in time for the 2019 elections. But [that’s] something that Congress must decide, not the Executive.

ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW:  Sir, naaresto po iyong parang bilas ni Marwan, asawa nung hipag niya. Sir, bakit po after ilang taon na po mula nung napaslang si Marwan, ngayon lang po naaresto iyong pulis na bilas niya. Samantalang last year po, ang pangako po ng PNP nung nahuli po iyong Lady Coronel na nagpaplanong mag-establish ng caliphate sa Bohol. Ang sabi po nila ay lilinisin po nila iyong kanilang hanay.

Bakit po tumagal ng ganito bago po naaresto iyong pulis na bilas ni Marwan. At baka ho may mga iba pang koneksiyon iyong mga terorista sa PNP?

SEC. ROQUE:  Hindi ko po alam kung bakit umabot ng dalawang taon; needless to say, eh nagagalak naman po kami naaresto pa rin siya.

Normally, habang tumatagal eh bumababa iyong tsansa ng pag-aresto; pero naaresto po iyong kamag-anak ni Marwan at kinagagalak pa rin naman po iyan. Iyan po ay isang importanteng hakbang laban po sa mga terorista.

ROSE/HATAW:  Sir, wala pong direktiba iyong Malacañang sa PNP na pursigihin iyong paglilinis ng kanilang hanay para po hindi nahahaluan ng may koneksiyon sa terorista?

SEC. ROQUE:  Ay naku, iyong paglilinis naman po sa hanay ng kapulisan, iyan po ay isang continuing effort at hindi ko pa po na-announce iyong mga sinasabi ni Presidente na sisibakin sa kapulisan. So marami po iyan.

ROSE/HATAW:  Iyong i-a-announce po kaya ninyo ay terrorist-related iyong mga pulis kaya sila masisibak o dahil sangkot lang sa droga?

SEC. ROQUE:  Well, iba-ibang dahilan po iyan, siguro meron din ilang mga masisibak dahil sa kanilang koneksiyon sa mga terorista, pero antayin na lang po natin iyong listahan.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7:  Sir, doon sa—I think there’s a Senate hearing now on the Benham Rise. There was one, si Cesar Villanoy from MSI [Marine Science Institute] said out of the six days the China was exploring in that area, only three days, three days wala silang kasamang Filipino scientist?

SEC. ROQUE:  I do not know that as a fact. So, we’d be interested to know what the resource persons have to say. But of the resource persons that were reported to have been invited, I would say that the Director of the UP-IMS is the only one who is actually directly involved in the conduct of the scientific research in Benham Rise. I do not know what the other resource persons will have to say.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  So, sir kapag halimbawa iyong condition natin na Filipino scientist should be on board during the length and doon sa duration ng trip dapat kasama sila. Let say for example, sa 6 days, all 6 days they should be there?

SEC. ROQUE:  I cannot answer that with being definite because I do not know why they were not there. It could be that they were engaged in scientific research, it could be that their presence was not required because it was not a material step, it could be preparatory, I do not know. As I said, the researchers will have to be summoned.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  Sa Boracay lang, sir. There are at least two proposals: one from Secretary Año, ang sa kaniya – during the meeting with the DOT and DENR – state of calamity declaration; and there’s another proposal for a 60-day parang closure, 60 days lang.  Where are we leaning towards, given the situation there?

SEC. ROQUE:  Everything is speculative, dahil nung last Cabinet meeting po it was then that DENR Secretary was given 60-days to come up with the recommendations on what to do with Boracay. So we have to wait until the expiration of the 60-days. All these recommendations are coming before expiration of the period given to the DENR Secretary to make its recommendation.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  So any recommendation whether we are going to proceed with A or B will come after the 60-days?

SEC. ROQUE:  It will have to be after 60-days. Now meanwhile, the President underscored in that meeting—and again, I’m sorry, we did not discuss this in our press briefings. I reserved it actually for the following day, after the day, after the Cabinet hearing.

The directive of the President is to remind the local government units that it was their obligation to safeguard the environment.

Governor Chatto yesterday – when I was in Bohol – agreed with that, except that he voiced the need for closer coordination between the national agencies such as the DENR and local government units because they need to know what it is that the local government units should be enforcing.

JOSEPH/GMA7:  So when you say, that’s the LGU obligation, would you say, because Boracay has reached that kind of stage, that there’s some accountability on the part of the LGU?

SEC. ROQUE:  Definitely. The President was emphatic in the Cabinet meeting, to remind the LGUs that they will incur criminal liability for malfeasance and misfeasance for their failure to protect the natural environment in Boracay. He said it, he was very emphatic; although he will wait for the recommendations of Secretary Cimatu.

INA ANDOLONG/CNN PHILS:  Sir, but previously the President already threatened to close down Boracay. Did he mention maybe in the Cabinet meeting what kind of closure, will it be. The entire island he was thinking about closing down or in portions only, maybe the most… the areas with the most severe problem?

SEC. ROQUE:  I think the records will bare me out. The President did not actually mention the closure of Boracay in the Cabinet meeting. He was emphatic that in 60-days Cimatu should make his recommendations. Of course that—one recommendations that could be made, could be the closure of Boracay, but we don’t know because we have to await the end of the period of 60-days.

HENRY URI/DZRH:  Secretary, may mga grupo lang ho sa probinsya na kinakausap iyong mga gustong maging barangay chairman at ang sinasabi ay makipag-usap sa kanila, sila na ang bahala, konektado sila sa Malacañang, konektado sila sa Pangulo, sa DILG at kung gusto nilang maging barangay chairman ay  sila na ang maglalakad nito sa Pangulo. Meron bang ganitong pinakawalang grupo ang Malacañang?

SEC. ROQUE:  Wala pong ganiyang grupo na binigyan ng otoridad para kumuha ng applications para maging barangay captains. Gaya ng sinabi ko po kanina, sa ngayon po ang batas natin ay nagsasabi na ang mga barangay officials, barangay captains ay halal po ng taumbayan. So, hanggang magkaroon po ng batas na sila po ay i-a-appoint na lamang, kinakailangan po ihalal pa rin sila ng taumbayan. Pre-mature po para kahit kanino magsabi na magkakaroon ng appointment ang Barangay Captain.

In any case ulitin ko po: Wala pong kahit sinong tao o grupo ang binigyan ng otoridad ng Malacañang para mangako na pupuwede silang umupo bilang Barangay Captain, wala pong ganiyan.

HENRY/DZRH:  May proposal si Congressman Rey Umali na i-postpone iyong eleksiyon pero ngayon ay malapit na ang Marso, Mayo ang eleksiyon, kaya po ba. Ito ba ay possible pang umusad at maging batas para ma-postpone ang eleksiyon?

SEC. ROQUE:  Eh ang naghahanda naman po para sa eleksiyon ay isang independiyente Constitutional Commission, ang Comelec. So, ang inaasahan ko po handa ang Comelec. Kasi wala namang batas ang nagsasabing ma-postpone; at uulitin ko lang po iyong sinabi ni Senator Koko Pimentel that parang wala pong consensus sa Senado na i-postpone uli ang Barangay election.

HENRY/DZRH:  Kung ise-certified na urgent bill ito ng Pangulo, puwede ba iyon, meron ba kayong napag-uusapang maari ninyong i-certify na urgent ito, panukalang ito?

SEC. ROQUE:  Wala pa pong ganiyang mungkahi na i-certify urgent; but even if certified urgent po, iyon pa rin ang paningin ni Senate President Pimentel – na walang suporta sa Senado. Ako naman po iyong sinasabi ko lang at inuulit ko ang sinabi sa akin ni Senator Pimentel dahil alam n’yo naman po ang desisyon kung itutuloy o ipagpapaliban na naman ay sa desisyon ng Kongreso—

HENRY/DZRH:  o makalusot man ito sa Kongreso, hindi ito makakalusot sa Senado based on Pimentel’s—

SEC. ROQUE: Iyon po ang sinasabi niya na any postponement parang ayaw na po ng mga senador.

ROWSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Good morning ulit, sir. Sir, ano po ang inaasahan ng Palasyo sa ikalawang pagharap ni dating Pangulong Benigno Aquino III sa pagdinig tungkol sa Dengvaxia?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala po kaming inaasahan sa kaniyang pagharap. Pero siguro po ngayon, ang nais malaman ng taumbayan ay bakit nga napakabilis ng proseso na pagbili, parang araw lang ang ibinilang at talagang nabili na iyan; at pangalawa is, ano ba talaga, alam ba nila talaga na magkakaroon ng masamang epekto iyong Dengvaxia para doon sa mga hindi pa nagkakaroon ng dengue dahil iyon naman po talaga ultimately ang isyu ngayon. Dahil kung alam na ng Sanofi at ng gobyerno ng mga panahon na iyon ay talagang magkakaroon sila nang hindi lang civil liability kung hindi criminal liability.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, I’m reading the statement of the former President. One of the points that he said there is that this issue has been politicized, and those who are not qualified – you know who I’m referring to – are being …

SEC. ROQUE:   No I don’t.  [laughs]

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Iyong isang kasama ni chief.

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko alam kung sino iyon …

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Si Erfe. So sabi niya parang lahat ay sumasawsaw even those who are not qualified to talk about it. Number one point, is this issue being politicized? Do you agree with that kind of assessment?

SEC. ROQUE: If it is, it certainly not because of the President. The President has taken a very calm, very rational approach to this. He has made a declaration that he understands why the previous administration decided to use Dengvaxia, having been a victim of dengue himself. But his continuing order is for the investigation, the NBI to continue and to conclude it so that we will find out if people should be criminally liable.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Would you agree, sir, that some—I mean, it’s being too noisy na raw?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, I don’t think the Palace will have any position on that. It’s a free country. Of course, individuals can come up with professional opinions. But that professional opinion, of course, the weight of that opinion will depend on whether or not they have the qualification to make expert opinions according to the revised rules of court.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Sir, good morning. For the record, sir, what did the President do yesterday? Did he attend any EDSA-related event?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not think so. I do not know what he actually did because I haven’t seen him. We parted ways last week, last Thursday. I expect to see him tomorrow, I believe. But it was a Sunday so …

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Sir, kasi last year, the President didn’t take part in any EDSA event as well. So is this deliberate on his part? Is this going to be the norm? Is he distancing himself from this event?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know. But you know, the declaration of February 25 as a national holiday stays. It is a public holiday, and public funds are being spent to commemorate it. So I don’t think there should be any reason to deviate from the fact that by law and by practice, we celebrate EDSA because it was a historical event in our country.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: Sir, usually kasi the President leads the commemoration.

SEC. ROQUE: I don’t think it’s usual, because even in the past not all Presidents showed up.

LEILA SALAVERRIA/INQUIRER: So there’s no attempt naman to diminish the significance?

SEC. ROQUE: There’s none. It remains in our statute books. As in fact, the ceremonies are being, well, spearheaded by the National Historical Commission no less.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, what do you think, what does the Palace think of historical revisionism?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know what historical revisionism you’re talking about. But if you are talking about EDSA, it’s no less than the National Historical Commission that’s responsible for the annual commemoration.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: I’d like to go to the poll by your Asec. for Social Media, si Mocha. Mayroon siya yatang poll.

SEC. ROQUE: She is not mine Asec., because she is a PCOO Asec.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: PCOO, yeah. But iyong poll niya.

SEC. ROQUE: What was her poll?

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Whether the EDSA was fake news daw.

SEC. ROQUE: Well, according to the law, it is not fake news. According to the law, we honor the EDSA Revolution having declared it as a public holiday. And of course as I said earlier, we even have appropriate funds to commemorate the event.

So we still recognize and we will always recognize EDSA not only as an important historical event, but it was the first bloodless people power revolution in the whole entire planet earth; and it remains significant.

JOPEL PELENIO/DWIZ: Sir, bakit po kaya tinanggal ng National Historical Commission iyong kulay dilaw and imbes na gamitin iyong dilaw sa EDSA Revolution Anniversary, ang ginamit nila is bandila ng Pilipinas?

SEC. ROQUE: Naku, pakitanong po sa National Historical Commission. Mayroon po yata silang spokesman talaga.

JOPEL PELENIO/DWIZ: Kasi ayaw dawn ilang mahaluan ng kulay pulitika.

SEC. ROQUE: Oo. Alam mo naman kasi iyong mga kulay-kulay naging kulay na rin iyan ng eleksiyon, so dapat huwag nga sigurong mahaluan ng kulay eleksiyon iyan dahil baka pumasok ang pulitika. Mensahe po iyan na ang ating ginagalang ay iyong ating demokrasya at iyong ating makabayang mga sentimyento at hindi pulitika.

TED TUVERA/TRIBUNE: Sir, update lang po sa stand ng Presidente tungkol sa divorce bill, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Sabi niya, no comment.

TED TUVERA/TRIBUNE: No comment pa rin, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Tinanong ko, ‘di ba pinatanong ninyo, sabi niya no comment; although he remains steadfast to be against abortion.

He confirms he made that 2016 interview. But when I asked him what his current stand is, he said no comment.

Q: Why?

SEC. ROQUE: He leaves it to Congress.

Q: Why?

SEC. ROQUE: Kaya nga no comment, paano ko masasagot iyong why.  [laughs]

ROCKY/PTV4: Okay, no more? Thank you, MPC. Thank you, Governor Mangudadatu. Thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

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SOURCE: PCOO – NIB (News and Information Bureau)

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